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How Can Hotels Be More Sustainable? [10 Eco Ideas For 2022]

hotel pool sustainable

Becoming more sustainable is a must for hotels in 2022. There are a few good reasons for this.

Firstly, to be more sustainable means you’re being more efficient, which can have a commercial advantage. Secondly, customers now want to see businesses, including hotels, that are more eco friendly with initiatives in place to help the environment.

The emissions and energy footprint of the hotel industry is immense. From carbon emissions and water usage, to food waste and single use plastic consumption.

Heading towards sustainability means implementing small changes that directly impact each of these areas.

The premise for hotel sustainability is simple: reduce energy usage, increase energy efficiency, reduce waste and limit single use.

Ideas can include installing solar panels for energy, cutting down on food waste and composting leftovers, as well as banning single-use plastics.

While some strategies may require an initial investment, they can have a huge environmental impact and will save money in the long run. The various sustainability strategies discussed can be used and implemented by any size hotel – from small B&Bs and Airbnb destinations to boutique hotels and larger chains.

Read on to learn more about strategies and tips you can introduce on how to make a more eco-friendly hotel.

The Reality About Sustainable Practices In The Hospitality Industry

hotel sustainability sign
Talking hotel sustainability

The reality of climate change isn’t going away and it’s impacting each of our lives in frightening ways. It’s never been more important for companies and business leaders to introduce sustainable practices on the ground level. And the hotel industry is no different!

If you’re running a small or medium-sized hotel you’ll run into tonnes of energy-saving opportunities on a regular basis.

Many hotel owners worry that implementing green initiatives might push away customers and affect their ratings. However, the truth is that the average consumer is a lot more energy conscious today than they were 15 years ago. 

In fact, surveys show that up to 87% of travellers prefer eco-friendly hotels, and around 67% would pay 5% more to stay at an eco-hotel with lower carbon emissions.

This even applies to travellers scouting for locations to host business events. Up to 75% of company reps ask about a hotel’s eco-rating when making inquiries. Becoming more eco friendly and sustainable is the way the world is going, so it’s best to put actions into place now.

Carbon emissions of hotels

A report by the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, formally known as the International Tourism Partnership, found that hotels need to reduce their carbon emissions by 66% by 2030 to become aligned with the Paris Climate Agreement. This then increases to a 90% reduction by 2050.

These are huge goals to achieve in a short space of time, showing the scale of change required by many hotels.

It’s thought that the average output of a hotel room per night is 31kg of carbon emissions. This equates to over 11,000kg across a year.

Translate these carbon emissions into pounds and pence, and you’re talking over £6,000 in energy usage per room.

Even those hotel slippers you sometimes get have a carbon footprint – around 10lb of carbon as it happens.

drink refreshments hotel
How many single use plastic items at this room refreshment counter?

Top 10 Sustainable Hotel Ideas

These eco-friendly hotel ideas will help you transform your operation with sustainable business practices.

But it’s important to remember that not every solution has to involve a grand change. Since hotels can operate on a sliding scale from small to vast, even minor changes in policy or approach can have a significant impact on energy consumption.

1. Recycle plastic water bottles

The simplest sustainable practice for hotels is to stop offering single-use plastic bottles. If you have 100 guest rooms, you’ll be going through thousands and thousands of single use bottle every month.

Encourage people to bring and refill their own water bottles. You can also offer your own branded reusable bottles, with a filtered water point at locations throughout your hotel to encourage use and good practice.

2. Reduce single use plastic use

Whilst we’re on plastic, ditch the single use stuff!

Plastic water bottles are the obvious choice, but there will be so many more single use plastics lurking throughout your hotel business.

3. Install refillable bathroom dispensers

We’ve all seen the mini shampoos and shower gels that hotels love to use. Ever thought about how much energy is wrapped up in those mini items on the scale they must be produced?

It’s not just the energy it takes to produce all these plastic containers, but the waste afterwards too.

We’re talking potentially hundreds of thousands per hotel site!

A much better option is to opt for refillable containers in the bathroom.

I stayed at a hotel recently with refillable shower gel, shampoo and handwash containers. It worked brilliantly.

This is such a simple change, but one that can save tonnes of unnecessary resource use, money and waste.

refillable hotel bathroom products
Refillable bathroom products in a hotel I stayed at

4. Compostable coffee pods

Many hotel rooms these days have a complementary coffee pod machine.

Although a nice touch for guests, the single use coffee pod waste produced across all hotel rooms must be immense.

If you do offer a coffee pod machine, or plan to do so, think about what happens to the coffee pods afterwards. Although coffee pods are difficult to recycle due to the different materials used, some pods are recyclable. These often require specialist facilities which is why some coffee companies offer a takeback scheme.

Another option is to go for compostable coffee pods. This means that after use, your pod can be sent to an industrial composting facility to be converted into compost and make its way back into the Earth to the benefit of plants.

5. Use eco-friendly cleaning products

Cleanliness is the bread and butter of the hospitality industry. Every surface is wiped down a thousands of times across a year. Each sheet is washed, every toilet scrubbed and each room is turned over as part of a thorough and regular cleaning system. 

But did you know that traditional cleaning products are often intensive to produce and contain toxic ingredients that can impact the local environment and ecosystems? 

The good news is that there are plenty of eco-friendly, natural cleaning options out there for you to stock up your supplies.

You might like to check out these blogs on eco friendly toilet cleaners, best bleach alternatives, white vinegar for cleaning and eco laundry detergent sheets.

6. Do not waste leftover food

When we talk about sustainability it’s important to remember that everything has a carbon footprint, from the food we eat to the clothes we wear. While transport and electricity are the most obvious culprits, food waste is one of the biggest sources of energy and carbon emissions in hotels, and indeed in everyday life.

Estimates show that a third of all produced food is wasted each year with 18 percent of that waste coming from the hospitality sector. Policies that reduce food waste can include:

  • Conducting an audit to identify areas of concern
  • Creating an efficient system for inventory so perishables don’t go bad in storage
  • Donating leftover food to homeless shelters and other charities in the area
  • Sourcing local produce and seasonal food
  • Offering vegetarian and vegan menus to cut down on meat and dairy usage

On meat, it’s thought that replacing meat options with a plant-based option could save around 350 tonnes of carbon emissions per year!

zero landfill bin in hotel bathroom
Zero to landfill pledge from hotel bin

7. Offer guests electric vehicles for transport

Bigger hotels might offer rentable travel options to their guests. This most commonly includes cars and bikes. Here’s a great chance for you to turn your fleet electric!

Having electric vehicles available for rent gives environmentally conscious consumers the opportunity to protect the local environment while they’re out and about. You can read more here on the environmental credentials behind electric bikes and e-scooters

Your hotel can also curate activity lists and excursions that will help tourists conserve energy and touch base with the local community. It’s important to recognise that conservation efforts don’t just need to be restricted to the four walls of the hotel. 

8. Monitor water usage and save water

Research shows that automated taps can save 50-60% of the water that would have gone to waste with a regular tap.

While installing motion sensor taps is an expensive intervention it will have huge payoffs in terms of your eco-rating and your long-term water costs.

Another water solution is to use a rain harvesting system to store and supply some of your own water needs. Collected water can be filtered and re-used in various areas of the business.

9. Powered by renewable energy

Green hotels should also invest in green infrastructure options. Solar panels are one of the best renewable options to save energy and costs over the long term.

While this may seem like a huge initial expense, the reduction in energy costs will have a massive long-term impact on your hotel’s profitability. It’s also a huge bonus if you ever come to sell in the future.

In addition to the financial savings, it will also cut down your building’s carbon footprint.

If you can’t install an amount of solar panels to cover your energy usage, can you be powered by other renewable energy means?

hotel pool in sunny climate with blue sky
Solar panels would be great on a sunny hotel roof

10. Install LED lights

I visited a hotel recently in the UK that didn’t have LED lights.

The reason I noticed this was in the bathroom. After a couple of minutes of having the light on, the temperature increased dramatically!

Traditional incandescent light bulbs are no where near as energy efficient as LED bulbs. In fact, incandescent bulbs use around 80% more energy. And it’s no wonder as a lot of this energy is being emitted as heat!

You can learn a little more on how to recycle light bulbs once they’ve ran out here.

Wrap up on hotel sustainability

Sustainability business practices can come in all shapes and sizes. Some require initial capital investment, such as solar panels, water systems and HVAC systems, while others require just a clever swap or change in organisation.

Over time, your eco changes are going to build up and compound to the point where you’ll see positive long-term impact on your hotel’s eco-rating and environmental impact.

Keep a track of how the different areas of your hotel business are performing. This includes areas such as food waste and cleaning. It’s only by keeping a tight check and through regularly auditing that you can then make plans to reduce usage and switch to more eco friendly hotel ways in the future.

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Ben & Murphy Peaks Mam Tor

Ben is the Creator and Editor of Tiny Eco Home Life. I write and publish information about more sustainable, environmentally friendly living in and around the home.

Alongside this website, I love spending time in the natural world, living a simple life and spending time with my young family (Murphy the dog!) I round up my thoughts and recent blogs on the Eco Life Newsletter.